March 6, 1951 (21st Parliament, 4th Session)


Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)


Hon. Douglas Abbott (Minister of Finance):

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) has asked me to deal with the inquiry of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) on February 19 regarding the pattern of lay-offs of civil servants that is taking place as part of the government's economy program.
I should first make clear that so far as possible the government is endeavouring to avoid the hiring of new employees as a means of getting to the lower levels that are planned, instead of laying off present employees. Programs of expansion already approved are being revised to reduce or eliminate the additional demands on the labour market which they would have involved. Where employees are to be released from some work for reasons of economy, they are being transferred where possible to fill vacancies elsewhere, either vacancies arising from normal turn-over, which is substantial in times like the present, or vacancies in units where some expansion is required because of the defence program and its various effects. This transfer is being arranged by the individual departments concerned', and, of course, by the civil service commission.
It is not possible, however, to achieve all the necessary reductions in staff by this means, and consequently some employees are being released. Most of these are what are termed "temporary" employees and have been employed by the government for relatively short periods. The actual proportions differ in different departments and units, and I cannot generalize. Nor can I give total figures at this stage, as the economy programs in many departments are still being worked out and it is too early to say how many will be released, or of what categories and to what extent they can be transferred to other units.
Speaking in broad terms, however, it is possible to say that most but not all the employees released will be from temporary positions. Some persons occupying so-called permanent positions are being released as part of the general program. Some of these will be at or close to retirement age and will thus be retired earlier than would otherwise have been the case. Obviously, however, earlier retirement does not help to make more labour available for the defence program, unless

Civil Service
those going on pension can be expected to take work with other employers, or unless the person being retired earlier than otherwise was holding back the pace of work by others, which may occasionally be the case. Other permanent employees being released may, of course, be entitled to certain benefits, either immediate or deferred, under the superannuation act, depending upon the circumstances of individual cases. Other things being equal, permanent employees are less likely to be laid off than temporary ones, and those with long service less likely than those with short service. Departments have been asked to give particular care to the cases of older employees, whether temporary or permanent, who seem unlikely to be able to find other work.
A number of departments and the national employment service are making arrangements to assist civil servants being laid off to find employment elsewhere. That is, of course, wholly desirable, not only for the help it affords to the individual, but also because it assists in meeting the other demands for labour.
The estimates to be brought down shortly will reflect the plans for reductions in staff and will provide suitable opportunities for discussions regarding individual departments or smaller units of the public service.

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